“I don't really feel safe continuing...” says our guide, Cheo, lowering his machete. He is chopping through a patch of dense Amazon rainforest, looking for an elusive trail leading back to our boat. I stop and look around the small clearing, which way had we just come from? Everything is a mass of tall trees and snaking vines, branches and leaves, and I'm totally disorientated. For the first time on our three-day Amazon adventure, I appreciate the full, epic power of the rainforest.
Medellin, Colombia, can be a tough city to love. Yes, it has a dark past and there are still plenty of visible problems, including street crime and a community that literally lives on top of a toxic trash pile. However, Medellin is also a city in the throes of a staggering transformation, one filled with some of the friendliest people we've met anywhere in the world. During our month in Medellin, as we took time to learn about the city, it steadily grew on us. So, from cable cars to graffiti tours, here are our top things to do in Medellin Colombia and some tips for making the most of your stay.
Last week we celebrated five years of travel, can you believe that? I still vividly remember waving goodbye to our families at Heathrow in 2013, clutching our brand-new backpacks and one-way tickets to New Zealand, heading off on what we thought would be a two-year trip around the world. Yet, here we are in Colombia five years later, reflecting on both the amazing and tough aspects of this nomadic lifestyle we’ve managed to carve for ourselves.
Picture a town nestled amongst forested peaks, with dusty trails leading to icy waterfalls and panoramic viewpoints. Welcome to Minca, our favourite place in Colombia. This tiny oasis in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a haven for trekkers and nature lovers, full of diverse wildlife such as hummingbirds and toucans. From touring coffee and cacao farms to bathing in waterfalls, here are our top things to do in Minca, how to get there and where to stay.
There are two bird statues in San Antonio Square in Medellin Colombia. One is discoloured and gnarled, destroyed by a bomb in 1995 that killed 22 people who were enjoying a music concert. The second bird is identical save for the fact that it’s shiny and whole. These Pajaros de Paz, Birds of Peace, are a stark reminder of Medellin's troubled past, but also of its transformation from the most dangerous to the most innovative city in the world.
This week has been all about the tiny town of Minca, set in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Colombia. Here the forests are dotted with icy waterfalls and the skies filled with the calls of tropical birds. Despite a bout of food poisoning and being covered in itchy bug bites, we’ve hiked, toured cacao farms and hung out in a rustic retreat where a scorpion lived in our open-air bathroom.
Our first week in Colombia has been stuffed with activity. We’ve wandered around colourful Cartagena, taken a very un-relaxing trip to Playa Blanca, baked in the scorching sunshine and stuffed our faces with the biggest avocados we’ve ever seen. The week has also been a battle to balance work with exploring (as always) and come to terms with the fact that we’re not really ‘backpackers’ anymore. Read on for our Colombia first impressions.
Cartagena was our first destination in Colombia and we fell for its colourful, historical charm. The port city is set on the Caribbean coast and boasts a tropical climate, 16th century UNESCO Old Town, imposing fort and nearby white-sand beaches. Colonised by the Spanish, Cartagena is Colombia’s largest port and one of its top tourist draws. If you’re visiting the city, find out about its top sights, where to stay and how to get around in our Cartagena guide.
Tomorrow we set off for Colombia! We’ve been talking about this South America trip for so many years that it’s taken on a surreal, dream-like quality for me. Now it’s a tangible thing. This time tomorrow we’ll be zooming across the sky to the other side of the world. Here’s a look at how we’ve prepared for this adventure, from buying a new camera to organising insurance, researching visas and compiling our packing list.